LOS ANGELES - “The Hunger Games“’ Liam Hemsworth is leaving the 12 Districts of Panem and striking off on his own in this Friday’s “Paranoia.”
Studio executives are waiting to see if the corporate espionage thriller announces Hemsworth as a budding A-lister or crashes in a crowded summer field of movies, pulling his star to earth with it.
Teen idols like Daniel Radcliffe, Robert Pattinson and Jennifer Lawrence have tried to expand their brands beyond the young-adult franchises that made them famous.
Sometimes, as in the case of Lawrence’s Oscar-winning work in “Silver Linings Playbook,” the actors have demonstrated that they have more to offer than “The Hunger Games” or “Twilight.” But others, such as Taylor Lautner, have failed to find follow-up projects that generated much heat at the multiplexes.
TheWrap pulls out its grade book to take a look at how the top teen idols have fared at the box office — outside their franchises. Since Hemsworth is newest to the game, we’ll save him for last.
Franchise Role: Vampire-obsessed Bella Swan in four “Twilight” films
Follow-Ups: Stewart mixed in indie fare like “The Runaways,” “On the Road” and “Adventureland” with big-budget offerings like “Snow White and the Huntsman” with mixed results. After grossing nearly $400 million worldwide, “Snow White” will likely spawn a sequel and helped prove that audiences could accept her in other roles. However, the fall-out from her affair with director Rupert Sanders hurt her with Twi-hards who wanted her romance with Robert Pattinson to mirror their on-screen love story. Plus, those indie movies received respectful reviews, but barely made a ripple at the box office.
What’s Next: More “Snow White” along with grittier roles in the Guantanamo Bay drama “Camp X-Ray” and the backstage indie “Sils Maria” opposite Chloe Moretz.
How the Strategy Worked: The logic is sound, and Stewart gets credit for finding a second franchise. However, she still has to convince critics that her slouching, often affect-less delivery is a stunning display of naturalism instead of simply a case of indifference.
Franchise Role: Bespectacled boy wizard Harry Potter in the eight films that carry that name.
Follow-Ups: Most of Radcliff’s biggest splashes have been in the theater, where he memorably bared all in “Equus” and proved he could carry a show in “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” But he has mixed in a few idiosyncratic offerings such as the horror film “The Woman in Black,” which earned a decent $127.7 million worldwide.
What’s Next: The horror film “Horns,” about a man who wakes up with some funky headgear, and “Kill Your Darlings,” which will feature Radcliffe as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg in “Kill Your Darlings.” He’ll also play Igor in an untitled Frankenstein project.
How the Strategy Worked: He’s proved he’s more than just a cute kid by taking the stage, but he needs to keep tending to the movie star part. “The Woman in Black” proved he can open a film; now he has to repeat the trick with “Horns” and “Kill Your Darlings.”
Franchise Role: Peeta, the adversary and occasional love interest of Katniss Everdeen, in “The Hunger Games.”
Follow-Ups: Voice work in the animated film “Epic” and a role as a guerilla fighter in the long-delayed “Red Dawn,” which he actually completed before “The Hunger Games,” didn’t hurt him exactly but also didn’t rise or fall on his performance. Prior to playing Peeta, he appeared in “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and its sequel and showed he could be a sensitive sceen presence in “The Kids Are All Right.”
What’s Next: Three more “Hunger Games” sequels interspersed with a role as a young surfer who tangles with Pablo Escobar’s niece in “Paradise Lost” opposite Benicio del Toro. There’s also the possibility of another sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”
How the Strategy Worked: It’s hard to adequately assess whether Hutcherson has the chops to carry him beyond “The Hunger Games.” A lot is riding on “Paradise Lost.” If he goes toe to toe with del Toro, it will demonstrate he’s an actor and not just a second banana.
Franchise Role: Brooding bloodsucker Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” films.
Follow-Ups: Aside from a brief detour into heartthrob territory with 2011’s largely forgettable “Water for Elephants,” Pattinson has favored edgier vehicles like David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and the Belle Epoque romantic drama “Bel Ami.” It’s earned him points for stretching, but critics have been cool to the films themselves - and audiences have steered clear.
What’s Next: More of the same. Teaming up with Cronenberg on “Maps to the Stars,” facing off against Guy Pearce in the Australian drama “The Rover,” getting taken advantage of by Carey Mulligan in “Hold on to Me” and playing T.E. Lawrence in “Queen of the Desert.”
How the Strategy Worked: After “Twilight,” Pattinson had his pick of roles, and he’s used that opportunity to prove that he’s more interested in finding offbeat roles than he in cashing paychecks. That’s admirable. However, he needs to find a part that gets the critical raves he clearly covets. Perhaps his second collaboration with Cronenberg will prove more memorable than the first.
Franchise Role: Brainy spell-caster Hermonine Granger in eight “Harry Potter” films.
Follow-Ups: A stint at Brown University, interrupted by a heart-tugging turn in the acclaimed and successful “Perks of Being a Wallflower” and a hilarious send-up of her goody two-shoes image in “This Is the End.” She also had a small role as a C-list celebrity obsessed criminal in Sofia Coppola’s lackluster “The Bling Ring.”
What’s Next: Holing up in the ark along with Russell Crowe in Darren Aronofsky’s biblical epic “Noah.”
How the Strategy Worked: She aced this exam. Watson has sought out a diverse range of projects that play to her strengths but also highlight a sense of humor that was only hinted at in the “Harry Potter” films. “Noah” represents her biggest challenge yet, but Aronofsky worked wonders with Natalie Portman, another former child star, in “Black Swan,” so you have to like those odds.
Franchise Role: Vulpine and frequently shirtless Jacob Black in four “Twilight” films.
Follow-Ups: The lamentable action film “Abduction,” which flopped at the box office, and a barely there cameo in “Grown Ups 2.” Lautner’s resume is notable as much for the films that never happened as for the ones that did - a long list that includes “Stretch Armstrong” and “Cancun.”
What’s Next: The parkour thriller “Tracers” presents a good chance to showcase Lautner’s physicality and physique.
How the Strategy Worked: It’s a career running on fumes. In the midst of “Twilight” mania, studio executives thought they had found a budding action star. “Abduction” demonstrated that it takes more than muscles to open a movie.
Franchise Role: Gale Hawthorne, the BFF of Katniss Everdeen in “The Hunger Games.”
Follow-Ups: Hauled around artillery in “The Expendables 2“ and dabbles in white-collar duplicity in this Friday’s “Paranoia.”
What’s Next: “The Expendables 3,” where he’ll round out a cast of ‘80s action icons and bring the average age down by four decades; robbing in armored car in “Empire State” opposite Dwayne Johnson; playing a former athlete in “Cut Bank” with a cast that includes Billy Bob Thornton and John Malkovich. Plus, three more installments in “The Hunger Games,” where his character begins to take a more important role in the action.
How the Strategy Worked: A lot hinges on “Paranoia.” If he goes toe-to-toe with heavyweights like Harrison Ford and Gary Oldman and impresses audiences, than Hollywood has a new leading man. If not ... well, just ask Skeet Ulrich.